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BOOKS BY CLA RESEARCHERS

Rally the Scattered Believers: Northern New England's Religious Geography 
Shelby M. Balik  
Indiana University Press, 2014 
Winner, 2014 Phi Alpha Theta First Book Award

Northern New England, a rugged landscape dotted with transient settlements, posed challenges to the traditional town church in the wake of the American Revolution. Using the methods of spatial geography, Shelby M. Balik examines how migrants adapted their understanding of religious community and spiritual space to survive in the harsh physical surroundings of the region. The notions of boundaries, place, and identity they developed became the basis for spreading New England's deeply rooted spiritual culture, even as it opened the way to a new evangelical age.

Good and Mad: Mainline Protestant Churchwomen, 1920-1980
Margaret Bendroth   
Oxford University Press, 2023

Providing a new, women-centered view of mainline Protestantism in the twentieth century, Good and Mad explores the paradoxes and conflicting loyalties of liberal Protestant churchwomen who campaigned for human rights and global peace, worked for interracial cooperation, and opened the path to women's ordination, all while working within the confines of the church that denied them equality. Challenging the idea that change is only ever made by the loud, historian Margaret Bendroth interweaves vignettes of individual women who knew both the value of compromise and the cost of anger within a larger narrative that highlights the debts second-wave feminism owes to their efforts, even though these women would never have called themselves feminists.

This lively historical account explains not just how feminism finally took root in American mainline churches, but why the change was so long in coming. Through its complex examination of the intersections of faith, gender, and anger at injustice, Good and Mad will be invaluable to anyone interested in the history of gender and religion in America.

The Last Puritans: Mainline Protestants and the Power of the Past  
Margaret Bendroth     
University of North Carolina Press, 2015

Congregationalists, the oldest group of American Protestants, are the heirs of New England's first founders. While they were key characters in the story of early American history, from Plymouth Rock and the founding of Harvard and Yale, to the Revolutionary War, their luster and numbers have faded. But Margaret Bendroth's critical history of Congregationalism over the past two centuries reveals how the denomination is essential for understanding mainline Protestantism in the making.

Bendroth chronicles how the New England puritans, known for their moral and doctrinal rigor, came to be the antecedents of the United Church of Christ, one of the most liberal of all Protestant denominations today. The demands of competition in the American religious marketplace spurred Congregationalists, Bendroth argues, to face their distinctive history. By engaging deeply with their denomination's storied past, they recast their modern identity. The soul-searching took diverse forms—from letter writing and eloquent sermonizing to Pilgrim-celebrating Thanksgiving pageants—as Congregationalists renegotiated old obligations to their seventeenth-century spiritual ancestors. The result was a modern piety that stood a respectful but ironic distance from the past and made a crucial contribution to the American ethos of religious tolerance.

The Spiritual Practice of Remembering  
Margaret Bendroth  
Eerdmans, 2013

We often dismiss history as dull or irrelevant, but our modern disengagement from the past puts us fundamentally out of step with the long witness of the Christian tradition. Yet, says Margaret Bendroth, the past tense is essential to our language of faith, and without it our conversation is limited and thin.

This accessible, beautifully written book presents a new argument for honoring the past. The Christian tradition gives us the powerful image of a vast communion of saints, all of God's people, both living and dead, in vital conversation with each other. This kind of connection with our ancestors in the faith, Bendroth maintains, will not happen by wishing or by accident. She argues that remembering must become a regular spiritual practice, part of the rhythm of our daily lives as we recognize our world to be, in many ways, a gift from others who have gone before.

Dividing the Faith: The Rise of Segregated Churches in the Early American North  
Richard J. Boles    
New York University Press, 2020

Phillis Wheatley was stolen from her family in Senegambia, and, in 1761, slave traders transported her to Boston, Massachusetts, to be sold. She was purchased by the Wheatley family who treated Phillis far better than most eighteenth-century slaves could hope, and she received a thorough education while still, of course, longing for her freedom. After four years, Wheatley began writing religious poetry. She was baptized and became a member of a predominantly white Congregational church in Boston. More than ten years after her enslavement began, some of her poetry was published in London, England, as a book titled Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. This book is evidence that her experience of enslavement was exceptional. Wheatley remains the most famous black Christian of the colonial era. Though her experiences and accomplishments were unique, her religious affiliation with a predominantly white church was quite ordinary. 

Dividing the Faith argues that, contrary to the traditional scholarly consensus, a significant portion of northern Protestants worshiped in interracial contexts during the eighteenth century. Yet in another fifty years, such an affiliation would become increasingly rare as churches were by-and-large segregated. Richard Boles draws from the records of over four hundred congregations to scrutinize the factors that made different Christian traditions either accessible or inaccessible to African American and American Indian peoples. By including Indians, Afro-Indians, and Black people in the study of race and religion in the North, this research breaks new ground and uses patterns of church participation to illuminate broader social histories. Overall, it explains the dynamic history of racial integration and segregation in northern colonies and states.

To Plead Our Own Cause: African Americans in Massachusetts and the Making of the Antislavery Movement  
Christopher Cameron    
Kent State University Press, 2014

The antislavery movement entered an important new phase when William Lloyd Garrison began publishing the Liberator in 1831—a phase marked by massive petition campaigns, the extraordinary mobilization of female activists, and the creation of organizations such as the American Anti-Slavery Society. While the period from 1831 to 1865 is known as the heyday of radical abolitionism, the work of Garrison's predecessors in Massachusetts was critical in laying the foundation for antebellum abolitionism. To Plead Our Own Cause explores the significant contributions of African Americans in the Bay State to both local and nationwide antislavery activity before 1831 and demonstrates that their efforts represent nothing less than the beginning of organized abolitionist activity in America.

Fleshing out the important links between Reformed theology, the institution of slavery, and the rise of the antislavery movement, author Christopher Cameron argues that African Americans in Massachusetts initiated organized abolitionism in America and that their antislavery ideology had its origins in puritan thought and the particular system of slavery that this religious ideology shaped in Massachusetts. The political activity of Black abolitionists was central in effecting the abolition of slavery and the slave trade within the Bay State, and it was likewise key in building a national antislavery movement in the years of the early republic. Even while abolitionist strategies were evolving, much of the rhetoric and tactics that well-known abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass employed in the mid-nineteenth century had their origins among blacks in Massachusetts during the eighteenth century.

Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America 
Rachel Hope Cleves
Oxford University Press, 2014

Conventional wisdom holds that same-sex marriage is a purely modern innovation, a concept born of an overtly modern lifestyle that was unheard of in nineteenth-century America. But as Rachel Hope Cleves demonstrates in this eye-opening book, same-sex marriage is hardly new.

Born in 1777, Charity Bryant was raised in Massachusetts. A brilliant and strong-willed woman with a clear attraction for her own sex, Charity found herself banished from her family home at age twenty. She spent the next decade of her life traveling throughout Massachusetts, working as a teacher, making intimate female friends, and becoming the subject of gossip wherever she lived. At age twenty-nine, still defiantly single, Charity visited friends in Weybridge, Vermont. There she met a pious and studious young woman named Sylvia Drake. The two soon became so inseparable that Charity decided to rent rooms in Weybridge. In 1809, they moved into their own home together, and over the years, came to be recognized, essentially, as a married couple. Revered by their community, Charity and Sylvia operated a tailor shop employing many local women, served as guiding lights within their church, and participated in raising their many nieces and nephews.

Charity and Sylvia is the intimate history of their extraordinary forty-four year union. Drawing on an array of original documents including diaries, letters, and poetry, Cleves traces their lives in sharp detail. Providing an illuminating glimpse into a relationship that turns conventional notions of same-sex marriage on their head, and reveals early America to be a place both more diverse and more accommodating than modern society might imagine, Charity and Sylvia is a significant contribution to our limited knowledge of LGBT history in early America.

American Harmony: Inspired Choral Miniatures from New England, Appalachia, the Mid-Atlantic, the South, and the Midwest
Nym Cooke  
David R. Godine, 2017

The ultimate collection of early American choral music, including folk hymns from the nineteenth century.

A two volume work in a sturdy slipcase, American Harmony includes full musical scores and complete verses for 176 pieces of music, 100 illustrations, over 100 pages of biographical information about composers and musical arrangers, and a CD recording of 35 pieces.

The first volume of this set covers New England compositions from 1770 to 1815, the second volume covers a wide range of locations from 1813 to the present. Selections are drawn from well-known sources (such as the shape-­note hymnal, The Sacred Harp) as less well known sources, all in their original harmonizations.

Nym Cooke has made the study of shape-note music his life’s work and is among the foremost authorities on the subject. Beginning his research in 1976, he has sung every one of the 5,000 pieces published in American tunebooks through 1810, researched the composers’ biographies, and determined not only how the music should be presented in print, but also how it might best be performed in person.

Cherokee Sister: The Collected Writings of Catharine Brown, 1818-1823
Theresa Strouth Gaul, editor    
Nebraska Press, 2014

Catharine Brown (1800?–1823) became Brainerd Mission School's first Cherokee convert to Christianity, a missionary teacher, and the first Native American woman whose own writings saw extensive publication in her lifetime. After her death from tuberculosis at age twenty-three, the missionary organization that had educated and later employed Brown commissioned a posthumous biography, Memoir of Catharine Brown, which enjoyed widespread contemporary popularity and praise.

In the following decade, her writings, along with those of other educated Cherokees, became highly politicized and were used in debates about the removal of the Cherokees and other tribes to Indian Territory. Although she was once viewed by literary critics as a docile and dominated victim of missionaries who represented the tragic fate of Indians who abandoned their identities, Brown is now being reconsidered as a figure of enduring Cherokee revitalization, survival, adaptability, and leadership.

In Cherokee Sister, Theresa Strouth Gaul collects all of Brown's writings, consisting of letters and a diary, some appearing in print for the first time, as well as Brown's biography and a drama and poems about her. This edition of Brown's collected works and related materials firmly establishes her place in early nineteenth-century culture and her influence on American perceptions of Native Americans.

Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family
Sara Georgini     
Oxford University Press, 2019

Reflecting on his past, President John Adams mused that it was religion that had shaped his family's fortunes and young America's future. For the nineteenth century's first family, the Adamses of Massachusetts, the history of how they lived religion was dynamic and well-documented. Christianity supplied the language that Abigail used to interpret husband John's political setbacks. Scripture armed their son John Quincy to act as father, statesman, and antislavery advocate. Unitarianism gave Abigail's Victorian grandson, Charles Francis, the religious confidence to persevere in political battles on the Civil War homefront. By contrast, his son Henry found religion hollow and repellent compared to the purity of modern science. Religion helped Abigail's great-grandson Brooks, a Gilded Age critic of capitalism, to prophesy two world wars.

Globe-trotters who chronicled their religious journeys extensively, the Adamses ultimately developed a cosmopolitan Christianity that blended discovery and criticism, faith and doubt. Drawing from their rich archive of art and letters, Sara Georgini, the series editor for The Papers of John Adams, demonstrates how pivotal Christianity—as the different generations understood it—was in shaping the family's decisions, great and small. Spanning nearly four centuries of faith from Puritan New England to the Jazz Age, Household Gods tells a new story of American religion, as the president's family lived it.

A World of Their Own: A History of South African Women's Education
Meghan Healy-Clancy      
University of Virginia Press, 2014

The politics of Black education has long been a key issue in southern African studies, but despite rich debates on the racial and class dimensions of schooling, historians have neglected their distinctive gendered dynamics. A World of Their Own is the first book to explore the meanings of Black women's education in the making of modern South Africa. Its lens is a social history of the first high school for Black South African women, Inanda Seminary, from its 1869 founding outside of Durban through the recent past.

Employing diverse archival and oral historical sources, Meghan Healy-Clancy reveals how educated Black South African women developed a tradition of social leadership, by both working within and pushing at the boundaries of state power. She demonstrates that although colonial and apartheid governance marginalized women politically, it also valorized the social contributions of small cohorts of educated Black women. This made space for growing numbers of Black women to pursue careers as teachers and health workers over the course of the twentieth century. After the student uprisings of 1976, as young Black men increasingly rejected formal education for exile and street politics, young Black women increasingly stayed in school and cultivated an alternative form of student politics. Inanda Seminary students' experiences vividly show how their academic achievements challenged the narrow conceptions of Black women's social roles harbored by both officials and black male activists. By the transition to democracy in the early 1990s, Black women outnumbered Black men at every level of education—introducing both new opportunities for women and gendered conflicts that remain acute today.

The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather
Rick Kennedy 
Eerdmans, 2015

Cotton Mather (1663-1728) was America's most famous pastor and scholar at the beginning of the eighteenth century. People today generally associate him with the infamous Salem witch trials, but in this new biography Rick Kennedy tells a bigger story: Mather, he says, was the very first American evangelical.

A fresh retelling of Cotton Mather's life, this biography corrects misconceptions and focuses on how he sought to promote, socially and intellectually, a biblical lifestyle. As older puritan hopes in New England were giving way to a broader and shallower Protestantism, Mather led a populist, Bible-oriented movement that embraced the new century—the beginning of a dynamic evangelical tradition that eventually became a major force in American culture.

Incorporating the latest scholarly research but written for a popular audience, The First American Evangelical brings Cotton Mather and his world to life in a way that helps readers understand both the puritanism in which he grew up and the evangelicalism he pioneered.

The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America's Civil War
Dick Lehr
PublicAffairs, 2014

In 1915, two men—one a journalist agitator, the other a technically brilliant filmmaker—incited a public confrontation that roiled America, pitting Black against white, Hollywood against Boston, and free speech against civil rights.

William Monroe Trotter and D. W. Griffith were fighting over a film that dramatized the Civil War and Reconstruction in a post-Confederate South. Almost fifty years earlier, Monroe's father, James, was a sergeant in an all-Black Union regiment that marched into Charleston, South Carolina, just as the Kentucky cavalry—including "Roaring Jake" Griffith, D. W.'s father—fled for their lives. Griffith's film, The Birth of a Nation, included actors in blackface, heroic portraits of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and a depiction of Lincoln's assassination. Freed slaves were portrayed as villainous, vengeful, slovenly, and dangerous to the sanctity of American values. It was tremendously successful, eventually seen by 25 million Americans. But violent protests against the film flared up across the country.

Monroe Trotter's titanic crusade to have the film censored became a blueprint for dissent during the 1950s and 1960s. This is the fiery story of a revolutionary moment for mass media and the nascent civil rights movement, and the men clashing over the cultural and political soul of a still-young America standing at the cusp of its greatest days.

Damnable Heresy: William Pynchon, the Indians, and the First Book Banned (and Burned) in Boston
David M. Powers
Wipf & Stock, 2015

Misunderstandings between races, hostilities between cultures. Anxiety from living in a time of war in one's own land. Being accused of profiteering when food was scarce. Unruly residents in a remote frontier community. Charged with speaking the unspeakable and publishing the unprintable. All of this can be found in the life of one man—William Pynchon, the puritan entrepreneur and founder of Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1636.

Two things in particular stand out in Pynchon's pioneering life: he enjoyed extraordinary and uniquely positive relationships with Native peoples, and he wrote the first book banned—and burned—in Boston.

Now for the first time, this book provides a comprehensive account of Pynchon's story, beginning in England, through his New England adventures, to his return home. Discover the fabric of his times and the roles Pynchon played in the puritan venture in Old England and New England.

A Cotton Mather Reader
Reiner Smolinski and Kenneth P. Minkema, editors
Yale University Press, 2022

An authoritative selection of the writings of one of the most important early American writers. Cotton Mather (1663–1728) has a wide presence in American culture, and longtime scholarly interest in him is increasing as more of his previously unpublished writings are made available. This reader serves as an introduction to the man and to his huge body of published and unpublished works.

Records of Trial from Thomas Shepard’s Church in Cambridge, 1638–1649: Heroic Souls
Lori Rogers-Stokes
Palgrave-MacMillan, 2020

This book presents a revolutionary new reading of manuscript records left by puritan minister Thomas Shepard in Cambridge, Massachusetts that have been studied for decades as his on-the-spot recording of oral relations of faith delivered by candidates for church membership. This book proves that these records are not relations, but Shepard’s personal record of sessions of trial—meetings with candidates still working out their spiritual seeking. New transcriptions of the original manuscript records, and corresponding never-before-published writing by Shepard, dispel much of the confusion produced by the published transcriptions. Close-readings of the manuscripts, contrasted with the published transcriptions, set the stage for a new understanding of puritan spiritual preparation in Shepard’s Cambridge church. The book concludes with a challenge to the negative reading of the women’s records that is central to established scholarship, revealing their powerful, confident spiritual identities and voices.

The Devil’s Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock ‘n’ Roll
Randall J. Stephens
Harvard University Press, 2018

When rock and roll emerged in the 1950s, ministers denounced it from their pulpits and Sunday school teachers warned of the music's demonic origins. The big beat, said Billy Graham, was "ever working in the world for evil." Yet by the early 2000s Christian rock had become a billion-dollar industry. The Devil's Music tells the story of this transformation. Rock's origins lie in part with the energetic Southern Pentecostal churches where Elvis, Little Richard, James Brown, and other pioneers of the genre worshiped as children. Randall J. Stephens shows that the music, styles, and ideas of tongue-speaking churches powerfully influenced these early performers. As rock 'n' roll's popularity grew, white preachers tried to distance their flock from this "blasphemous jungle music," with little success. By the 1960s, Christian leaders feared the Beatles really were more popular than Jesus, as John Lennon claimed.

Stephens argues that in the early days of rock 'n' roll, faith served as a vehicle for whites' racial fears. A decade later, evangelical Christians were at odds with the counterculture and the antiwar movement. By associating the music of Blacks and hippies with godlessness, believers used their faith to justify racism and conservative politics. But in a reversal of strategy in the early 1970s, the same evangelicals embraced Christian rock as a way to express Jesus' message within their own religious community and project it into a secular world. In Stephens' compelling narrative, the result was a powerful fusion of conservatism and popular culture whose effects are still felt today.

Historical Dictionary of the Christian Denomination and Afro-Christian Churches
Richard Taylor
RHT Publishing, 2023

This book provides a detailed exploration of two intertwined religious traditions, the Christian denomination (or Connection) and the Afro-Christian churches. Included here are details on the locations and life spans of nearly 7,000 churches, over 240 local conferences, four maps, and a short history. The “historical directory” format is used here because many of the primary Christian resources have been scattered. This design includes details on periodicals, annuals, national conventions, and conference records indicating where the resources have been found. In addition to the United States, the book also reviews many churches in Canada and related mission work in Japan, Puerto Rico, Guyana, and other Caribbean and African outreach. It includes an extensive bibliography and indexes to the history and church locations.

The Martyrdom of Abolitionist Charles Torrey 
E. Fuller Torrey 
Louisiana State University Press, 2013

During his brief yet remarkable career, abolitionist Charles Torrey—called the "father of the Underground Railroad" by his peers—assisted almost four hundred slaves in gaining their freedom. A Yale graduate and an ordained minister, Torrey set up a well-organized route for escaped slaves traveling from Washington and Baltimore to Philadelphia and Albany. Arrested in Baltimore in 1844 for his activities, Torrey spent two years in prison before he succumbed to tuberculosis. By then, other abolitionists widely recognized and celebrated Torrey's exploits: running wagonloads of slaves northward in the night, dodging slave catchers and sheriffs, and involving members of Congress in his schemes. Nonetheless, the historiography of abolitionism has largely overlooked Torrey's fascinating and compelling story.

The Martyrdom of Abolitionist Charles Torrey presents the first comprehensive biography of one of America's most dedicated abolitionists. According to author E. Fuller Torrey, a distant relative, Charles Torrey pushed the abolitionist movement to become more political and active. He helped advance the faction that challenged the leadership of William Lloyd Garrison, provoking an irreversible schism in the movement and making Torrey and Garrison bitter enemies. Torrey played an important role in the formation of the Liberty Party and in the emergence of political abolitionism. Not satisfied with the slow pace of change, he also pioneered aggressive abolitionism by personally freeing slaves, likely liberating more than any other person. In doing so, he inspired many others, including John Brown, who cited Torrey as one of his role models.

E. Fuller Torrey's study not only fills a substantial gap in the history of abolitionism but restores Charles Torrey to his rightful place as one of the most dedicated and significant abolitionists in American history.

A New Christian Identity: Christian Science Origins and Experience in American Culture 
Amy B. Voorhees  
University of North Carolina Press, 2021

In this study of Christian Science and the culture in which it arose, Amy B. Voorhees emphasizes Mary Baker Eddy's foundational religious text, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Assessing the experiences of everyday adherents after Science and Health's appearance in 1875, Voorhees shows how Christian Science developed a dialogue with both mainstream and alternative Christian theologies. Viewing God's benevolent allness as able to heal human afflictions through prayer, Christian Science emerged as an anti-mesmeric, restorationist form of Christianity that interpreted the Bible and approached emerging modern medicine on its own terms.

Voorhees traces a surprising story of religious origins, cultural conversations, and controversies. She contextualizes Christian Science within a wide swath of cultural and religious movements, showing how Eddy and her followers interacted regularly with Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Catholics, Jews, New Thought adherents, agnostics, and Theosophists. Influences flowed in both directions, but Voorhees argues that Christian Science was distinct not only organizationally, as scholars have long viewed it, but also theologically, a singular expression of Christianity engaging modernity with an innovative, healing rationale.

A Constitutional Culture: New England and the Struggle Against Arbitrary Rule in the Restoration Empire
Adrian Chastain Weimer
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2023

In A Constitutional Culture, Adrian Chastain Weimer uncovers the story of how, more than a hundred years before the American Revolution, colonists pledged their lives and livelihoods to the defense of local political institutions against arbitrary rule.

With the return of Charles II to the English throne in 1660, the puritan-led colonies faced enormous pressure to conform to the crown’s priorities. Charles demanded that puritans change voting practices, baptismal policies, and laws, and he also cast an eye on local resources such as forests, a valuable source of masts for the English navy. Moreover, to enforce these demands, the king sent four royal commissioners on warships, ostensibly headed for New Netherland but easily redirected toward Boston. In the face of this threat to local rule, colonists had to decide whether they would submit to the commissioners’ authority, which they viewed as arbitrary because it was not accountable to the people, or whether they would mobilize to defy the crown.

Those resisting the crown included not just freemen (voters) but also people often seen as excluded or marginalized such as non-freemen, indentured servants, and women. Together they crafted a potent regional constitutional culture in defiance of Charles II that was characterized by a skepticism of metropolitan ambition, a defense of civil and religious liberties, and a conviction that self-government was divinely sanctioned. Weimer shows how they expressed this constitutional culture through a set of well-rehearsed practices—including fast days, debates, committee work, and petitions. Equipped with a ready vocabulary for criticizing arbitrary rule, with a providentially informed capacity for risk-taking, and with a set of intellectual frameworks for divided sovereignty, the constitutional culture that New Englanders forged would not easily succumb to an imperial authority intent on consolidating its power.

Darkness Falls on the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England
Douglas L. Winiarski
University of North Carolina Press, 2017
Winner, 2018 Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy

This sweeping history of popular religion in eighteenth-century New England examines the experiences of ordinary people living through extraordinary times. Drawing on an unprecedented quantity of letters, diaries, and testimonies, Douglas Winiarski recovers the pervasive and vigorous lay piety of the early eighteenth century. George Whitefield's preaching tour of 1740 called into question the fundamental assumptions of this thriving religious culture. Incited by Whitefield and fascinated by miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit—visions, bodily fits, and sudden conversions—countless New Englanders broke ranks with family, neighbors, and ministers who dismissed their religious experiences as delusive enthusiasm. These new converts, the progenitors of today's evangelical movement, bitterly assaulted the Congregational establishment.

The 1740s and 1750s were the dark night of the New England soul, as men and women groped toward a restructured religious order. Conflict transformed inclusive parishes into exclusive networks of combative spiritual seekers. Then as now, evangelicalism emboldened ordinary people to question traditional authorities. Their challenge shattered whole communities.